BEIJING (AP) — China's communists called the scandal surrounding disgraced politician Bo Xilai a "profound lesson" for the ruling party, as delegates gathered in Beijing on Wednesday on the eve of a key leadership congress.
The party's handling of Bo's case underlines the leadership's resolve to uphold integrity and prosecute corruption no matter how high ranking the culprits, said Cai Mingzhao, spokesman for the 18th national Communist Party congress.
Bo had been one of China's highest-profile politicians and a candidate for higher office when he fell from grace amid a scandal over his wife's involvement in the murder of a British businessman. Bo dropped from view and in September was expelled from the party. He is being prosecuted for yet-unspecified charges, though he's been accused of corruption, abuse of power and assisting in covering up his wife's case.
"Problems involving Bo Xilai ... and others are serious corruption cases among our party's high-ranking leading cadres, and have offered a profound lesson," Cai told a news conference.
The struggle against corruption remains long term, complex and extremely difficult, Cai said. The 18th national party congress, which opens Thursday, will thoroughly address the issue and its disciplinary arm will adopt new measures in education, prevention, supervision and punishment, he said.
Cai also cited Liu Zhijun, a former railways minister who was expelled from the party and faces corruption charges.
National party congresses are held once every five years, and this year's meeting will usher in a once-in-a-decade transition to a new generation of top officials led by Vice President Xi Jinping.
The congress comes as Xi faces calls from academics and other commentators to embark on political reforms from strengthening the rule of law to making the system more transparent.
Cai indicated that Communist Party rule was a key driving force behind China's success and that any political reforms would not detract from that.
"China has scored world-renowned development achievements. It speaks fully to the strong leadership of the (Communist Party) and the fact that the political party system of China suits China's national reality," Cai said.
"We have to unswervingly stick to the right path blazed by the party and the people in their long term practice. We should never be intimidated by any risks nor be confused by any distractions," he said.
Calls for political reform have occasionally been made and steps taken in recent years to strengthen the legal system and increase the government's responsiveness, but the moves were aimed at strengthening one-party rule. The party has allowed nonpartisan elections for the lowest-level village leadership posts, but it controls policymaking, and harasses and jails activists who call for multiparty democracy.
Over the coming week, in addition to selecting members of leading party bodies, the 2,270 delegates will hear and deliberate over the work of the party over the last five years, a party discipline report and revisions to the party constitution.
Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report.